‘Journalism Usage Fee’ Legislation Passes Assembly Judiciary Committee 9-0 – California Globe

A bill that would require big tech companies to pay a fee to news outlets for using or posting articles and other local news content advanced in the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier this week, despite a growing movement to either kill the bill or significantly alter it.

Assembly Bill 886, authored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), would specifically have digital advertising companies, such as Google or Facebook, pay for content they use from media outlets. The bill, also known as the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), would pay a “journalism usage fee” to media outlet owners each time local news articles are used by the companies that also sell advertising along with it. Publishers would receive the funds and would then need to invest at least 70% back into funding journalism jobs, such as paying journalists or creating new journalism positions.

Introduced earlier this year, AB 886 quickly gained support in Sacramento with many agreeing with Wicks over compensating news outlets for having articles used online given the significant decline of local newspaper outlets in California in the past decade, largely attributed to a huge loss of print advertising. As newspaper advertising revenues have sunk a total of 66% more, with media outlet employees going down 44%, lawmakers voted for the bill to protect media outlets in the changing market, as  it is projected that regular online advertising not make up for the loss of print advertising for the foreseeable future.

Last month, the bill passed the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee 9-0, with 2 not voting. This, the unanimous vote count continued with AB 886 passing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee 10-0, with one member not voting.

“As news consumption has moved online, community news outlets have been downsized and closing at an alarming rate,” Assemblywoman Wicks said on Tuesday. “The dominant type platforms, both search engines and social networks, have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share the content they produce, which tech companies sell advertising against for almost no compensation in return.”

However, despite the support from lawmakers and  journalism unions, including the News Media Alliance and Media Guild of the West, a growing number of outlets have announced opposition to the bill. Smaller outlets, who would not benefit from the bill, accuse Wicks and others for crafting the bill to only benefit larger outlets while ignoring smaller and more local outlets, the latter of which that are the most at-risk in California.

“Most outlets in California would not benefit from this bill, only the few largest ones which, coincidently, are also the most unionized,” explained online advertising consultant Darren Adams to the Globe on Wednesday. “It’s not that smaller and independent outlets don’t want this bill, they just think that everyone should be covered, especially since smaller outlets are the ones most at-risk. Yeah, the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have a lot of dedicated journalists, but people in the state need local news too, and the bigger outlets rarely cover things in areas with less people despite the stories still being very important. Wicks’ heart was in the right place, especially since this is a bipartisan bill, but it really needs to be fixed to give all outlets a chance to be covered. If this passes, she’ll be known as the person who killed local news.”

The bill is expected to have a vote in the Assembly soon.

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